Today my uncle, Harvey died. September 16, the same date as Darah’s birthday. This coincidence, this intersection of death, and life, and death, is not really relevant to Harvey’s orb of existence, nor Darah’s, but for me, I guess, it represents something. A coincidence, a sign, a slap in the face from the Grim Reaper himself. I don’t know.
I do know that I have been lucky enough to spend most of my life on earth with essentially no exposure to death. In my mind, death was something that happened in the future. I would deal with it later. Only a small population of humanity, and an even smaller population of all life, can benefit from this advantageous phenomenon. Not to mention the extraordinarily newness of our death-avoiding abilities. Our average life span has more than doubled in the past 100 years. In 1900 the average life span was 40yrs of age! I am so removed from death that it almost seems as though it is not natural. Yet, besides childbirth, it, ironically, seems to be one of the truest things of life. Although I know this as fact I have such an impossibly hard time accepting it and I often want to run and hide from the bleak reality.
Fear, sadness, avoidance. That’s my response. About a year ago I discovered a book concentrating on a Latin theory, and subsequent art, of “momento mori” (Latin: “remember, you will die”). As the definition indicates, it’s a practice and theory of the reflection on mortality and earthly vanities. It’s basically pretty medieval, but I’ve accepted it as one of my main mantras. When I’m in the middle of a selfish panic attack or quarter life crisis, it is almost soothing to remind myself to remember that I will die, and so will everyone else, so you might as well try to make the best of your life, your situation, your mental state. I guess it’s my way of trying to confront and accept death. Regardless of how you address it, death is there. There comes a time that you can no longer push it off into the future or under the rug. And, in the way that Darah taught me so many things, she taught me this as well.
So, in honor of Darah’s birthday, I would like to write down some of my memories of her.
Since we are talking about pushing things under rugs I would like to begin with: Mistletoe. Sometimes considered the neighborhood’s ultimate annoyance, Mistletoe attained the nickname Toenail from my mother. The barking, the fur, the smell, the running away whenever possible, the constantly needing attention, was enough to put her over the edge, but to me he was the first dog I never had. The joy I had when petting him or walking him around the block pretending he was my own is seared into my brain and I will be forever grateful to Debbie & George for giving into buying him. Anyways, one day, (or many days, who really knows what he ate while gallivanting the Palisades neighborhood) Mistletoe puked in the hallway, in front of only Darah and me. Neither of us had the time or patience to clean it up. We had Saved By the Bell to watch, or lightning bugs to catch, or older sisters to annoy. So, in Darah fashion, she looked both ways, and moved the carpet over the puke. To this day I have not been able to confirm if the puke was ever found. If it was, I am sure she pled innocent until proven guilty. I loved this about her. She was a rule breaker. Darah was caring, loving, and, beyond all, patient. But she knew rules are meant to be broken, or, at least bent. We grew up together sharing this novel belief. Sneaking through George’s things in the basement, lighting aerosol spray on fire, going too far in the ravine, watching rated R movies, flirting with boys are just a few examples of the more innocent things that we did together.
As we grew older, and our crimes against rules progressed into less innocent endeavors, Darah served as the levelheaded, positive force in my life. We went to different schools and grew apart, but every moment we spent together was easy and felt as if nothing had changed. As I was struggling emotionally and away at school, seeing Darah was always a grounding and uplifting experience. She was so patient and so calm. No matter what trouble I had gotten into she made me realize everything would be ok. I so often wish she were still on this earth to provide this rare and soothing outlook on life to the students that she was working to serve. But I guess as Darah taught me so many other important things about life, and also as we learned so many things together, she taught me that things don’t always go as planned. She taught me to try to appreciate every small moment of joy and to never forget to reflect on these moments. And most of all, she taught me “momento mori”.
Written by Darah’s oldest friend, Madeline Rogers.